The world economy is improving

According to a recent report in The Economist, the “global economy looking less fragile than it did just six months ago.” A global purchasing managers’ index compiled by J.P. Morgan has says that and if recent patterns prevail, “industrial production should soon follow. Don’t get carried away; this is no runaway rebound. Nonetheless, it’s encouraging given the uncertainties that still hang over the global economy. See, “A Gentle Wind at the Worlds’ Back.

According to the report, “three serious worries had been hanging over investors and business: a euro breakup, a hard landing in China, and America heading over its fiscal cliff. I also noted that while the odds of avoiding any one of these were good, the the odds of avoiding all three were pretty low, about one-in-three. How can the economy be Continue reading “The world economy is improving”

LA law protects adult film industry workers

In a state famous for it’s detailed ballot initiative process, Los Angeles County yesterday passed a novel worker safety measure that supporters compare to regulations requiring construction workers to wear hard hats.

Henceforth,  performers in porn movies will be required to wear condoms while filming in LA, a decision that opponents say will leave consumers unsatisfied.

As reported in an article entitled Condom requirement for porn filming approved by voters,” in the Los Angeles Times:  “The initiative garnered 55.9% of the vote after a hard-fought campaign,’This is a major referendum on the subject of safer sex,’ said AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein. Continue reading “LA law protects adult film industry workers”

World responds to U.S. election results

Outside the bubble of American media, nations around the globe are responding to the news of Barak Obama’s reelection.  See “World Congratulates Obama on Victory” in todays edition of Al Jazeera: “World leaders have hailed President Barack Obama’s sweeping re-election, with allies  pledging to deepen cooperation with the United States on fighting the world economic slump and maintaining security across the globe.”

Remember that opinion outside the US had favored a second term to the incumbent U.S. President by a five-to-one margin, as reported in (See “World Opinion on U.S. Election.” Oct. 24, 2012)

As Al Jaeera continues “Congratulations poured in on Wednesday from across the world, including fellow UN Security Council members Britain, China, France and Russia as well as its staunch Middle East ally Israel and Obama’s ancestral home in Kenya.

“Russia President Vladimir Putin, whose relations with Washington have often been frosty, sent a telegram congratulating Obama on his victory over Republican challenger Mitt Romney.”

One Nation: Divided or United?

“We live in an era of democratic contradiction. As the Cold War recedes into history and the apparent triumph of liberal democracy spreads around the globethe domestic state of democracy within the United States remains in jeopardy,” writes David Trend in A Culture Divided: America’s Struggle for Unity. Echoing sentiments expressed in last night’s acceptance speech by Barak Obama, an excerpt from A Culture Divided follows below:

Rather than a nation where citizens feel empowered in their common governance, the U.S. has become a land of where growing numbers of citizens feel alienated from the democratic process. Voter turnout for the 2012 U.S. presidential election was nearly 20 percent less than in 2008. Massive anti-incumbency Continue reading “One Nation: Divided or United?”

War by any other name

You might think America isn’t in the war business any more––what with so much recent talk about troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan, the Colin Powell endorsement of the peace loving Obama, and Romney’s yammering about U.S military decline. But hang on a second. It’s not that the U.S. isn’t fighting. The combat actually continues, but it’s quite different than what most people conceive as “war,” per se. While official wars involving the U.S. are winding down, all sorts of smaller special operations or war-by-proxy campaigns are being undertaken on America’s behalf.

By some accounts the U.S. is currently conducting secret wars in 75 nations. These are explained in a lengthy article by Nick Turse appearing in Le Monde, entitled “A Failed Formula for Worldwide War: How the Empire Changed its Face, But Not its Nature.”

“In one way or another, the U.S. military is now involved with most of the nations on Earth,” Turse writes. Continue reading “War by any other name”

God withdraws support for christian right

From today’s The Onion:  “THE HEAVENS—Responding to inflammatory remarks made by Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock during a debate Tuesday night, Our Lord God the Almighty Father sought today to distance Himself from both Mourdock and the entire right-wing fundamentalist Christian movement, sources confirmed.

“’I want to make one thing absolutely clear: Mr. Mourdock’s comments from last night in no way reflect my position on this or any other issue,’ said the Divine Creator, speaking at a press conference this afternoon to address Mourdock’s remarks that rape-induced pregnancies were God’s intent. ‘And furthermore, I would like to take this opportunity to say definitively that I, God, do not officially sanction or condone the words or actions of anyone involved in the fanatical, conservative Christian faction that Mr. Mourdock represents.’ Continue reading “God withdraws support for christian right”

Obama and tomorrow

“Tomorrow, Election Day, we have an extraordinarily important decision to make. Many look at the economy and wish the recovery were happening more rapidly. Some would like to see a larger return on their stocks. And a select few look at their families and hope each day for the same protections that almost every other family in the country currently has.” Thus begins an entry in today’s Huffington Post entitled “Obama Responds to 10-Year-Old’s Heartfelt Letter About Her Dads.

Apparently, young Sophia Bailey Klugh penned a letter to President Barack Obama “in which she told the president how happy she is that he agrees with her on the topic of marriage equality. You see, young Sophia has two dads. She went on to ask the president an important question: ‘I am so glad that you agree two men can love each other because I have two dads and they love each other, but at school kids think that it’s gross and weird, but it really hurts my heart and feelings…. If you were me and you had two dads that loved each other and kids at school teased you about it, what would you do?’ Continue reading “Obama and tomorrow”

Iran sanctions deny medicine to 6-million

Economic sanctions like those now in place for Iran are intended to put pressure on a national government by making things tough for businesses. The sanctions now in place by the U.S. and European Union restrict sales to Iran of just about everything, except medical items and food, which are permitted though a case-by-case basis permitting process. Unfortunately, the permitting process is so slow that as many as 6-million Iranians now are not receiving needed medicines. Many of those affected are cancer patients. As reported in Al Jazeera, The New York Times, and elsewhere, efforts are now underway to correct what has recently been recognized as a public health crisis in Iran, largely resulting from U.S. actions. The news of Iranian suffering is further escalating anti-American sentiment.

In “Iran Sanctions Take Unexpected Toll on Medical Imports,” Thomas Erdbrink writes, “Sitting on one of the Continue reading “Iran sanctions deny medicine to 6-million”

Addiction, television, and courage

Alcoholism and addiction are two the biggest categories by which people are “othered.”  To many a substance abuser is a celebrity, a skid-row drunk, or maybe your crazy Uncle Bob––but it’s always someone else, not you or the person sitting next to you. Hence, there is shame attached to this illness for the afflicted  and those close to them. The fact is the one in ten people have problems with drugs or alcohol, numbers that tend to be much higher within creative communities. And most of them battle heroically with this problem in the face of a society that views them as derelict, dishonest, or morally bankrupt.

Users don’t fit typical stereotypes, as over 75% are productively employed and many highly successful. Among people who get flashes of brilliance from occasional mania, the numbers go to 85%.  Science has recently shown that genuine addiction (as opposed to occasional binging) results from faulty brain wiring that those afflicted can contain, but never correct (See forthcoming DSM V).

This is why a TV show like Rehab with Dr. Drew should be a good idea––a program that treats addiction as the illness that it is. Continue reading “Addiction, television, and courage”

Quandary named “most meaningful” new game

The free online game Quandary yesterday received high honors at the biannual “Meaningful Play” conference, devoted to socially responsible gaming. As Meaningful Play describes it’s mission:  “Whether designed to entertain or to achieve more “serious” purposes, games have the potential to impact players’ beliefs, knowledge, attitudes, emotions, cognitive abilities, physical and mental health, and behavior.” A transdisciplinary event, Meaningful Play 2012 brought scholars and industry professionals together to understand and improve upon games to entertain, inform, educate, and persuade in meaningful ways.

Quandry was among games cited for honors, winning the top award in “Most Meaningful” category. Continue reading “Quandary named “most meaningful” new game”

Writing about saving the world

Now we can add Sandy to the list of reasons to worry: about the environment, our bad habits, other people, and where all of it may be leading. And certainly lots of recent evidence seems to suggest that we have plenty of reasons to worry. But let’s be careful here. History shows that panic and fear have a way of infecting human thought, often feeding their own destructive patterns. In a recent essay in the Los Angeles Review of Books, K.C. Cole juxtaposes two works that manifest both the alarmist end-of-days perspective and a more nuanced consideration of the human mind. The essay entitled “How to Save ourselves from Extinction (One System at a Time)” begins thus:

“No one in their right mind would deliberately create the means of their Continue reading “Writing about saving the world”

Why women bosses pay themselves less

This is a tricky issue. A recent article in Forbes tries to understand why women executives pay themselves less than comparable male managers –– the same 76% seen elsewhere. One answer is that female-run businesses are often smaller. But studies correcting for that difference have found the same pattern. Before we write this off to internalized oppression, let’s consider one other answer, a more poignant and important one. Successful women may have a different value system, one less driven by competition, greed, and instant gratification. Women seem more willing to think about the interests of everyone in a company, and not just themselves.  Studies show that women also seem more oriented to long-term goals. See “Even When Women Write Their Own Checks, the Gender Pay Gap Persists” by Meghan Casserly. Continue reading “Why women bosses pay themselves less”

Biden on transgender civil rights

“Vice President Joe Biden said transgender discrimination is ‘the civil rights issue of our time’ during a visit to a Florida,” as reported in The Huffington Post. Biden was meeting with volunteers at an Obama for America office in Sarasota, Fla., when he singled out one woman “who he thought had beautiful eyes,” reads the pool report. The woman said something to Biden that was inaudible to the pool reporter, but Biden responded to her by saying it was the ‘civil rights issue of our time.’” The statement is circulating widely on internet news feeds. For more, see “Joe Biden: Transgender Discrimination is the Civil Rights Issue of Our Time.”

Biden’s statement is important at a moment when LGBT issues like marriage equality seem to be getting more attention. As The Huffington Post‘s Jennifer Bebdery continues “The vice president has been a steadfast ally to the LGBT community. He told gay rights advocates in August that they are “freeing the soul of the American people.” Most notably, however, he got out in front of President Barack Obama in May Continue reading “Biden on transgender civil rights”

The enormity of the war on women

“Even for those of us who are well-versed in the war waged on women since long before 2011, the Republicans’ full-blown assault was far worse than we could have imagined. No less than 67 abortion bills were introduced in the last congressional session alone.” Writes Kaili Joy Gray in Daily Kos, adding   “It wasn’t just an assault on reproductive rights, though. Oh, no. They also fought against the Paycheck Fairness Act, because while Republicans will give lip service to the idea of equal pay, they don’t really support it. Mitt Romney has said, during this election season, that women’s real concern is having more flex time so they can rush home to cook dinner for their families. Equal pay? Nah.” For more see, “Hey sluts and ladies and Vagina Americans, We’ve got a war to win.”

“Republicans fought against renewal of the Violence Against Women Act too. Why? Because they don’t believe violence against immigrants, lesbians and Native American women is a problem. Those women don’t deserve protection, according to Republicans. As with their shifting definitions of rape, some victims of domestic violence aren’t really victims, so screw ’em. Continue reading “The enormity of the war on women”

America on the brink

Historian Morris Berman began writing his trilogy before the 2000 election, 9/11, the Iraq War, and the Bush economy––subsequently producing the books The Twilight of American Culture and Dark Ages America. As we all know, the picture hasn’t been pretty for much of the last decade and Berman has remained one of the most astute commentators on the tortured journey of a nation that once stood for more than greed and political paranoia. Berman’s new book, Why America Failed, is reviewed in the current issue of TruthOut in an extensive essay by David Masciotra entitled “America: What Happened?,” Summarizing Berman’s points, Masciotra lists four key themes:

1. Accelerating social and economic inequality .
2. Declining marginal returns with regard to investment in organizational solutions to socioeconomic problems or, in other words, the political system becomes dysfunctional .
3. Rapidly dropping levels of literacy, critical understanding and general intellectual awareness.
4. Spiritual death, what Berman calls the “emptying out of cultural content and the freezing of it in formulas, kitsch.”

Homophobia in online gaming

“So here it is – I’m a queer gamer, one who comes from a community of similar left-of-center types. This is me trying to come to terms with the whole issue, focusing on the homophobic behaviour that impacts me, personally, the most. It is ferociously complex,” This from David Hollingworth writing in an article entitled “U R so gay: Homophobia in gaming, and why it hurts” in the November issue of the Australian site Atomic: Maximum Power Gaming.

At, we have been pleased to report on efforts in the online gaming community to turn around regressive norms and biases. But these problems continue to proliferate and are especially vexing considering the popularity of gaming among young people, where such media function as a powerful “teacher.” Hollingsworth writes that in most games  “sexism, racism, and homophobia is A-okay, and that if you’re offended by being called a fag it’s ‘just your fault’. Continue reading “Homophobia in online gaming”

Student loans to soon trigger economic crash

You may not want to hear this, but a threat is facing the U.S. economy that no one is talking. As discussed today in Le Monde, a veritable Frankenstorm of factors is now coalescing to crash the U.S. economy in the near future, along with other nations. Student loans are spiraling out-of-control  due to declining family incomes, skyrocketing tuition costs, and the wholesale abandonment of public universities by state governments. Christopher Newfield writes in “America’s Degree Scam” that “student debt may succeed subprime mortgages as the next disaster in the crisis of US capitalism. It is estimated at more than $1-trillion and has doubled over the last 12 years. Average debt for graduates with student loans rose to $23,200 in 2008; public university debt was only slightly lower, at $20,200. Despite the impossibility of discharging student debt through bankruptcy, the student loan default rate has gone from 5% to 10% between 2008 and 2011.” A similar story entitles “Debt Tops $1-Trillion” appears in the current Voice of Detroit. Continue reading “Student loans to soon trigger economic crash”

Sandy, the shock doctrine, and drones

Hurricane-post-tropical-Frankenstorm Sandy is winding down, but is the “shock doctine” about to kick in?  Author Naomi Klein has famously noted how disasters and other “shocks” to often trigger otherwise impossible actions by governments. In fact, right now legislators are beginning to seriously talk about climate change. But the after-effects of disasters are not always so sweeping and grand. Sometimes they happen quietly, or even secretly. Take “drone” aircraft for example.

Hurricane Sandy may prove to be one more reason why the US government continues or expands it program of secret spy planes over domestic U.S. airspace.  Despite complaints from civil liberties groups, the US government’s use of non-piloted aircraft––otherwise known as drones––has been steadily migrating to domestic airspace. In fact, just last week the ACLU filed court documents with five federal agencies (Justice Dept, FAA, GSA, Homeland Security, and USAF) inquring into the facts Continue reading “Sandy, the shock doctrine, and drones”